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CHAPTER XVI WITH EGYPT'S MOST FAMED SNAKE-CHARMER
"TT1X Orient* Luxl" ("Out of the East-Light!") J-y runs the old phrase. The ardent researches of £ j talented scholars and the fascinating discoveries of inquisitive travellers have combined to give ample testimony to the truth of that phrase. We Westerners are rightly proud of our achievements in "face-lifting" this world or ours, but we get a little disturbed sometimes when we hear of a half-naked fakir performing a feat which we can neither match nor understand. The thing keeps on occurring sufficiently often to remind us that there are ancient secrets and hoary wisdom in the lands which lie both east and west of Suez, and that the inhabitants of those colourful lands are not all such stupid, benighted heathens some of us think they are.
I am driven to these reflections when I remember my adventures with Sheikh Moussa, that man who, in the empire of the snakes, ruled as a king. I had met snake-charmers a-plenty in different parts of the East, as anyone may still meet them to-day, but I had been initiated by certain members of their fraternity into the cunning tricks and disillusioning secrets of their art, and thereafter lost my respect for all of them except a few. Knowing how they achieved their effects with harmless, fangless reptiles deprived one of the pleasure of sharing the wonderment of their gaping audiences, whether native or European.
^ But Sheikh Moussa did not belong to their tribe. He prided himself on being a real magician—in the ancient sense of that ill-used word—and on tackling, iii the name of the Prophet, all manner of serpents by means of nothing less than'a straightforward use or old-fashioned magical power. He never failed to justify this pride.
What Westerner can go out into the desert and poke among the stones and sand for a snake, and then grip it with his hand
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